Many headlines regarding the latest Suffolk/USA TODAY poll contain headlines about the strong lead that Hillary Clinton maintains, downplyaing (if not ignoring) the impressive gain made by Bernie Sanders (and corresponding drop in support for Clinton). The Suffolk/USA TODAY poll does have the former Secretary of State leading the Vermont Senator by 18% points nationwide, 41% to 23%, while Vice-President Joe Biden sits at 20%. What some are ignoring is the fact that the last Suffolk/USA TODAY poll, conducted back in July, had the Democratic frontrunner up 59% to 14%, a whopping 45% margin. Clearly, the insurgent candidate has made up significant ground.
The 18% point lead is significantly larger than the 8% lead in the latest Reuters poll, so it will be interesting to see how the next rounds of polling play out, especially since a significant portion of voters feel that Clinton’s email server scandal is hurting her candidacy. The scandal doesn’t appear to be going away anytime soon.
One very significant result of the Suffolk/USA TODAY poll noticed by Phillip Bump of The Washington Post as the reporter notes the dramatic drop in African-American support for Clinton:
Among white Democrats, Clinton is doing nine points worse since July. With black Democrats, this poll has her down 31.
The number of undecided voters doubled between the two polls, which is also noteworthy. Voters who are changing their minds about whom to support often make a waystation in the “undecided” category rather than switching immediately from one candidate to the next.
Part of the shift in support for Clinton might be due to the decline in her net favorability among blacks. Opinions of Clinton have dropped among all Democrats as we’ve seen before. Among blacks, the decline has been greater — and the increase in favorable views of Sanders has been stark. Clinton is down 16 points in net favorability, and Sanders is up 31. (The margin of error here, we would reinforce, is 8.5 points.)
Cannabis law reform advocates and Drug War reformers have largely flocked to the candidacy of Bernie Sanders because of his willingness to legalize marijuana, mention that states should be able to legalize cannabis without restrictions, declare the Drug War a failure and call for the abolishment of private prisons. The Drug War has systematically decimated the African-American community and Sanders’ positions on the Drug War, in addition to his response to the Black Lives Matter movement and endorsement from Civil Rights activist Professor Cornel West, have likely helped Sanders’s standing among people of color recently.
If more and more people hear about Sanders’ platform, learn of his history, more people of color will likely move into his column, especially if he wins Iowa and/or New Hampshire, demonstrating that he can win. The support of African-Americans is certainly a key for Hillary Clinton, if she continues to lose support among people of color, Senator Sanders may just win the Democratic nomination and propose the most progressive Drug War reforms of any presidential nominee in history and help move our country even further in the correct direction.
(Featured photo credit: Getty Images)